Medical emergencies, often stemming from traffic accidents, occur every day. Sometimes life or death hinges on whether a passerby stops to help in these dangerous situations. This might include providing various types of medical assistance, even when untrained. Consider a situation where someone pulls a driver from a burning vehicle, but the driver has a back injury from the impact of the crash. Moving them made the injury worse and left the driver paralyzed. However, had the person not helped, the driver would have likely died.
Fortunately, California and other states have laws that protect people who help others in emergencies, called Good Samaritan laws. Below we take a closer look at California’s Good Samaritan law, examples of situations where the law might apply, and how Dod Law, APC can help you if you have been charged after helping someone in an emergency.
What Does California’s Good Samaritan Law Say?
Good Samaritan laws refer to those who rush to the aid of someone in distress, even when they do not have specific medical training. Helping someone can often prevent them from further injury, but it can sometimes lead to unintentional harm. Like many other states, lawmakers in California decided that people with the best intentions to help others should be protected from lawsuits for their actions.
In 1980, California lawmakers passed the Good Samaritan law, which can be found in the state’s Health and Safety Code (1799.102). It states that three elements must be present to protect Good Samaritans in California:
- A Good Samaritan must be acting in good faith without the expectation of a reward or money.
- A Good Samaritan must be providing emergency medical or nonmedical assistance.
- A Good Samaritan must be assisting someone at the scene of a life-threatening emergency.
As long as these elements are present, any person without medical training is protected from liability for damages related to their actions or omissions.
Examples of California’s Good Samaritan Law in Action
Traffic accidents are the most common situation where California’s Good Samaritan law might apply. However, Good Samaritans offer help in other emergencies too, including:
- Rescuing someone who falls into a lake or swimming pool
- Giving CPR to someone who has stopped breathing
- Helping stabilize someone who suffers injuries from a serious fall
- Performing the Heimlich maneuver after someone begins choking
People who assist in these types of situations are protected under the Good Samaritan law as well. However, some exceptions assist.
Exceptions to California’s Good Samaritan Law
California’s Good Samaritan law does not always apply to every situation where someone rushes to help another in an emergency. These exceptions can include:
- Emergency departments or medical, law enforcement, or other emergency responders, as those with medical training can be liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit if their care harms someone.
- If a Good Samaritan commits a crime at the scene of the accident, they are not protected from criminal prosecution.
- Good Samaritans who act with gross negligence. Gross negligence is generally described as reckless disregard for someone’s safety and care, and proving this can be difficult, making these situations highly complex.
Ultimately, the expectation is that a Good Samaritan that stops to help someone else would not take any actions that a reasonable person would know harms others. Similarly, failing to provide help to someone that a reasonable person would offer in the same situation can also leave someone open to liability for damages.
Get the Legal Help You Need After Being a Good Samaritan at Dod Law, APC
If you saved someone’s life or tried to prevent them from suffering more harm in an emergency, you have rights. You might feel angry, betrayed, and hurt if they decided to sue you for damages. It’s best to let an experienced defense lawyer review the facts of your case and build the best defense possible to save you from the potential consequences of your choice to help another person.
Dod Law, APC has almost two decades of experience defending people in the San Diego area charged with defying Good Samaritan laws. We understand how to apply the law to help our clients obtain the best outcome for their cases, especially for Good Samaritans who were helping others. Contact us online or at (619) 814-5110 to discuss your case and learn more about how we can help.